Midsummer celebrations and increased tourism, particularly from Russia, have brought the more aggressive Delta strain into Estonia and the number of new daily infections is projected to be around 130 by the start of August, Postimees reports.
While in early June, all cases of the new strain were still brought into the country from abroad, at present, the Delta strain has become predominant and in two-thirds of cases, the strain has been transmitted domestically. With the current COVID-19 reproduction rate, Estonia can expect over 100 new cases per day at the end of July and 200 in August.
Estonia's coronavirus reproduction rate, or the R value, was slightly over 1.2 on Thursday evening.
"If this continues, we will have 100 new cases per day by the end of July," professor of mathematical statistics at the University of Tartu Krista Fischer said, adding that if the current R-value continues, there will be 200 cases a day in August.
With the R-value having increased over the past few weeks, if the Delta strain should spread more extensively, the COVID-19 reproduction rate will rise to 1.3, according to the forecast.
"In this case, the situation will be even worse. Before the end of August, the situation will be the same as at the start of May," Fischer said.
If there is no immunity in society, each person infected with the Delta strain infects six to eight people.
"[Its reproductive rate] is quite high. By comparison, a person infected with the British strain, infects around four people," Fischer said.
The Delta strain became predominant last week as 67 percent of last week's coronavirus cases are attributable to said strain. Altogether 392 variants of the delta strain have been sequenced in Estonia, of those 16.3 percent have been brought from abroad, of which, in turn, over three-quarters are from Russia.
Vaccination coverage is currently lowest among young people, who have also contracted the virus in the highest numbers in recent weeks, deputy director general of the Health Board Mari-Anne Härma said.
The number of new virus cases was highest last week among children aged 0-4 and 5-9 and young people aged 15-9 and 20-29. In the 18-29 age group, 62,120 people have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine. As of January 1, 2020, there were 169,308 people in this age bracket.
Irja Lutsar, head of the anti-COVID-19 scientific council advising the government, said that reintroducing restrictions now would be premature.
"There is no point in restricting all of Estonia; however, infected people and their close contacts should stay at home," Lutsar said. She urged people to vaccinate against the coronavirus already this summer as there are fewer other viruses in circulation preventing vaccination.
"Global data has shown that coronavirus vaccines are very efficient," Fischer said, adding that Estonia developing herd immunity would help curb the spread of the virus.
With regard to the Delta strain, Fischer underscored that those infected should be more cautious as the measures that have proven efficient previously may not be sufficient anymore.
"At the start of summer, we had quite a lot of immunity, which helped us prevent a major wave of the Delta strain," Fischer said, adding that this fact may not work in Estonia's favor for long as a lot of people still remain unvaccinated.
Editor: Helen Wright